For the better part of the last three seasons there has been a contingent of fans and media alike who believe the Phoenix Suns need to tank.
As the thought process goes, the easiest way to get good in the NBA is to get very, very bad first.
Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby -- along with the franchise itself -- has steadfastly refused to buy into the notion; often pointing to teams like the Sacramento Kings who have been bad for years yet still can't even become competitive.
On the other end of the spectrum is the Oklahoma City Thunder, who came into the US Airways Center Monday night and smoked the Suns by a score of 102-90.
Well, that's not entirely accurate.
It wasn't so much the "Oklahoma City Thunder" who smoked the Suns, rather it was Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook who did the deed.
Durant scored 41 points while Westbrook tallied 36, and their combined 47 second half points actually bested what the entire Suns roster could muster in the game's final two periods.
The duo's performance led Suns coach Alvin Gentry to ramble a bit in his opening statement following the game. In two minutes and 55 seconds, Gentry used no fewer than 523 words to explain what happened to his team Monday night. Every one of those words can be read below.
"You know they're a great team, there's a reason they were in the NBA Finals. There is a reason that they were in the NBA Finals last year. I thought that they played great and that was even without Ibaka. They got two great players in Westbrook and Durant and you can see why. They always put you in a position where you really can't double team them and get the ball out of those guys' hands, the way they space the floor. They keep Durant up top, Westbrook's on the side, they've got Kevin Martin on the side, so if you go you're going to leave a wide open three-point shooter, especially with Kevin Martin who is one of the top three-point shooters in the league and then you've got Durant up top, so they do a real good job with their spacing and what they run so that they make it almost impossible to double-team the ball or get the ball out of a guys' hands. They shot the ball extremely well. Westbrook shot it really, really good, and you know we're right there but he does such a good job on that little pull-up, mid-range shot that a lot of guys don't have in the league and then obviously with Durant, he's just so long he either jumps right over you or he drives to the basket and he makes it impossible. On the flip-side of that, I thought we competed like crazy. I thought we did a good job. We had our opportunities. Four-point game and we have a good defensive possession and then we don't secure the rebound, they throw it back out and they make a three pointer. That happened four times in the game tonight. If you're going to play a team of this quality, I told the guys one thing you have to do is you have to seize opportunity and I thought we had opportunities that we just kind of let slip by, and it's going to be really tough to beat a team of this quality if you don't take advantage of those situations. Like I said, I thought we competed like crazy. We did a good job on the boards for the most part, but those offensive rebounds, they had nine of them, five of them that really hurt us, so you go down and look and they end up shooting 47.6, but like I said we gave up four layups on our turnovers and then we gave up three three-pointers on second-chance points, so all of a sudden that's how you get to 47-percent instead of 43 or 44 percent, so if you're going to beat a great team like this you've got to be able to take those opportunities that are available to you and you've got to take advantage of it because if not, at the end of the game they're going to give the ball to Durant or they're going to give the ball to Westbrook and then they're going to space the floor, like I said, with Kevin Martin and that's going to make it really tough."
In short, the Thunder -- specifically Durant and Westbrook -- were too damn good.
Of course, the Zombie Sonics acquired both of their cornerstones via the NBA Draft lottery, with Durant being the second pick in 2007 and Westbrook the fourth pick the following year. In 2009 the team once again landed in the draft's top five, where they decided to select ASU's James Harden.
Had the Trail Blazers gone with Durant instead of Greg Oden, the Thunder would not be the team they are today. After all, it helps to have one of the game's all-time greats on the roster. Had Westbrook not developed like they hoped, the Thunder would not be the team they are today. Because as we all know, a point guard who can break down a defense like he can is a huge advantage on the court. And had the Thunder not "reached" for Harden and taken someone like Tyreke Evans or Ricky Rubio, they would not be the team they are today. While Harden has since been traded, having a talented piece like that to move led the team to acquiring other quality assets.
Those fortuitous and shrewd moves created the monster Gentry was rambling on about, and it's one the NBA is going to have to deal with for the foreseeable future.
The Suns own a bevy of picks over the next few seasons, and if the Lakers continue to slide could very well have a pair of lottery picks next June. Finally, after years of sputtering along and barely staying above water, the Suns appear destined to bottom out. They've tanked, even if unintentionally.
And finally, a good portion of fans will get to see if that is the path to the team turning its fortunes around. After all, it worked for the team that just worked the Suns.
But when viewing the Thunder, who own the NBA's best record and are a favorite to reach the NBA Finals for the second consecutive season, it is important to do so with one simple, undeniable fact in mind.
The Thunder have benefited from some great luck to go along with outstanding scouting.
The Suns have never had the former, and based on how the roster looks right now, have yet to prove they have the latter.
If you look hard enough with the right amount of nerdy perspective, potential Phoenix Coyotes owner Greg Jamison bears a striking resemblance to Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Which is fitting, because Jamison may very well be the Arizona sports fan's only hope.
We're fortunate to have a team in each of the "big four" sports, but of those that call the Valley home, the Phoenix Coyotes are the closest to being great. And they will get there if Jamison is the real deal.
Up to this point the Coyotes have been a nice story and good team.
Owned by the NHL and operating with a very limited budget, the Coyotes have reached the postseason each of the last three seasons. In 2012 the squad nobody seemed to want became an excellent defensive unit with enough grit to win the Pacific Division, and the underdog mentality carried the team to the Western Conference Final.
From there they were unceremoniously dispatched by the eventual champion Los Angeles Kings in a five-game series that wasn't even that close. But the Coyotes got there, which was an accomplishment in and of itself.
How it happened is anyone's guess, but suffice to say shrewd acquisitions by Don Maloney combined with great coaching by the sorcerer known as Dave Tippett helped.
But if the Coyotes are to take the next step and go from a nice team to one that can legitimately compete for a Stanley Cup, they will do so because of Jamison.
Jamison represents an opportunity for stability, the likes of which the franchise has not seen over the last decade.
Should the former San Jose Sharks CEO finally purchase the team, as has been reported, the direction the Coyotes are heading will change for the better.
Punchline? No longer.
Contender? You better believe it.
One of the things that have made the Phoenix Suns such an attractive team to play for is the place in which they play. The Valley, especially during basketball season, is a wonderful place to live. The weather is great, the golfing is ample and the nightlife is solid.
And in case you were wondering, hockey's season runs parallel with basketball's, so the same factors apply.
If the lockout taught us anything (besides the fact that lockouts are dumb), it's that hockey players want to be in Phoenix. All throughout the 113-day work stoppage were reports that some of the game's best were training right here in the Valley.
Now, this is not to say Jamison will (or even should) turn the Coyotes into the Flyers or Rangers and just spend, spend and spend some more.
But a capable owner would allow the team to spend more than it has -- or, really, spend at all -- and you have to wonder if finances are no longer an obstacle, what's left to stand in the Coyotes' way?
Maloney has already shown he can build a division winner on the cheap; think about what he could do with a little more cash to spend.
Indeed, with the ownership saga finally settled it's possible the Coyotes could rise to the top of the Arizona sports heap.
The Cardinals just wrapped up a 5-11 campaign -- their second in the last three seasons -- which led to the dismissal of their head coach and general manager.
The Diamondbacks are a few months away from taking the field, but when they return we'll be left to wonder if they're more the team that won the NL West in 2011 or the one that finished a mediocre 81-81 in 2012.
And the Suns, well, the Suns are on their way toward bottoming out (if they haven't already) and the rebuilding process will likely take a couple of years.
But the Coyotes are a good team now that could be even better in the near future. Good enough to win a championship?
As we embark on the 2013 calendar year, we do so with very little optimism towards our professional teams, save for one.
A Jamison-led Phoenix Coyotes may very well be a new hope for us all.
Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton began a somewhat inauspicious press conference in a way many would have expected.
With his parents to his right and coach to his left, the player began to address the crowd, which included Arizona State employees, members of the media and Sun Devil teammates. Most people probably thought, given the season Sutton just had and the setting in which he was making this announcement, he was going to go pro.
"It's been a great season, you know, we did it 8-5, good accomplishment, bowl champions," he said. "It's been a hard decision, it's been a long decision."
Sutton was at the Carson Center in Tempe Tuesday to announce where he would be playing football next season, with the options being right where he was or somewhere in the NFL.
He paused briefly before revealing his decision.
"My decision is that I'm going to stay and play another year…" he said, with the rest of his statement being drowned out by thunderous applause.
At stake was the future of a Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and consensus All-American, a player whose very presence made the Sun Devils a vastly different team.
Clearly a decision to stick around for one more year was worthy cause for celebration.
Sutton finished the 2012 campaign with 13 sacks and 63 tackles -- all while missing nearly two full games -- but even with seemingly little left to prove at the collegiate level, decided to return.
"There was a lot of things, a lot of pros and cons," he said of how he weighed the decision. "It wasn't just one thing, but some of the main things is coming back and winning a championship, doing it for my teammates and getting an education, my degree."
It's a novel concept in a time where many players -- especially those of Sutton's caliber -- jump at the very first chance they get to turn professional. That often makes sense, as every player is just one play away from seeing a season -- and possibly a career -- go down the drain due to an injury.
Yet Sutton said that's not something he can worry about, and it appears the decision he made Tuesday (he said that's when he made it) is one that he's very comfortable with.
And relieved to have finally made.
"It's pretty stressful," he admitted. "Got my teammates asking me what I'm going to do. Walking down the street people are asking me what I'm going to do, twitter, everything.
"So it's finally -- it's just a lot of stress, like, gone, to get this finally over with."
From here the task at hand, as Sutton said, is trying to win football games. The Sun Devils had a good season in 2012, but Sutton is returning with eyes on an even bigger year. As scary as that is to anyone on ASU's upcoming schedule, that's music to head coach Todd Graham's ears.
Graham, who said he only wanted what was best for Sutton, admitted to having some bias going into this decision. But, he said, the player's choice says a lot about who he is.
"He's the best defensive lineman I've ever coached, one of the best defensive players that I've ever coached," he said. "I think it just speaks volumes about his commitment to our team."
Graham said he believes Sutton "can get a whole bunch better", which if so will lead to Sutton's draft stock rising even higher. While a dominant college player as a junior, he was still projected to be a second or third round selection.
That was not on the player's mind, at least not Tuesday. When asked what was next for him, Sutton responded "I've got class at six o'clock," though he said he couldn't remember which one.
That's OK, as it's understandable if the 21-year-old has so much on his mind that he can't remember which class he's got next.
Because come next season, he'll be ready to take the Pac-12 to school once again.
Look beyond the 5-11 record, the messy quarterback situation and the fact that the Cardinals finished in last place in the NFC West.
Disregard Arizona's top-10 draft pick, anemic running game and sieve of an offensive line.
The "Same Old Cardinals" as we knew them are dead, a thing of the past.
Now if only the "Same Old Cardinals Fans" would go with them.
"I think that when you look at the last three seasons, particularly the last two seasons, our defense has performed at a very high level," Cardinals president Michael Bidwill said Monday. "Our offense seemed to struggle. We needed to focus on improving our offense, and I just didn't feel like where things stood that the course that we were on was the way to keep going."
"So I felt like it was time to make a change. When you look at the last three seasons, we didn't have a winning season in any of those three seasons. Of the 48 games, we won 18, and only four of those games were on the road."
Pretty compelling reasons for a change to be made, right? The idea in the NFL is, after all, to win games, and the Whisenhunt-led Cardinals were clearly not doing that.
Even so there were -- and still are -- many who feel like Bidwill made a mistake, that canning the most successful coach in franchise history will set the team back.
You won't be able to do better than Whisenhunt.
Can't do better than a coach with a 45-51 record who has posted just two winning seasons in six tries? I certainly hope the Cardinals can, and at the very least they should try to do better.
I'm OK with the move if they have an actual plan in place.
Teams do not generally fire coaches and soon after come to the realization that they now have to replace him. Bidwill said he had been thinking about making this move for a while, so it stands to reason he not only had a list of candidates he wanted to speak with, but a good idea about whether or not they would be interested in the job.
Whisenhunt was not the problem, this won't help.
This is debatable, as the coach had nothing to do with the injuries that besieged his team but had everything to do with the players on the roster. Was Whisenhunt the coach sabotaged by Whisenhunt the talent evaluator? Perhaps, but at the end of the day they are the same person, and the latter certainly had to go.
By making the move, Bidwill took another step toward proving he is not running a "cheap" organization. Many theorized the Cardinals would keep Whisenhunt around because they did not want to pay both him and a new coach next season, which is something that would have fit right along with how the franchise used to be run.
But that is not the case anymore.
"I think when you look back at the opportunity that we had to get to the Super Bowl, that is something that I want to get back to," Bidwill said. "I want to get back to winning football. It is a lot more fun to be winning football games and have all that excitement around this organization."
That makes a lot of sense, doesn't it?
Yet, there is a contingent of folks who still believe either believe the Cardinals can't be successful, don't don't know how to be successful or don't want to be successful.
Those folks can't seem to let go of what the Cardinals once were. Bidwill has for the most part lived up to the promise he made back in the day that a new stadium would lead to a new Arizona Cardinals franchise, and now simply being mediocre or competitive is not enough.
The Cardinals weren't even that of late.
The Cardinals demand better, and they weren't getting it.
And whether they give the job to Andy Reid, Ray Horton, Mike McCoy or any one of the candidates available, all that matters is they decided the status quo, which was a 5-11 season that included a nine-game losing streak, was not acceptable. So they made a change.
It's the type of thing a team that cares about winning first would do.
Ladies and gentlemen, these are your Arizona Cardinals.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill sounded confident when discussing the decision to relieve head coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves of their duties.
Explaining that the decisions were necessary but not easy, he praised the job the two men have done over their time in the Valley.
"Both are really good people, really good families who worked really hard to put this team in a position where it is and get us to our first-ever Super Bowl appearance, get us to back-to-back NFC West championships, and get us to a point where we really stabilized this organization after we opened the new stadium," he said.
But alas, things went south over the last three seasons, with the Cardinals winning just 18 of 48 games and just four away from the friendly confines of University of Phoenix Stadium.
Bidwill brought that up, and it is the central reason why the move he made had to be made.
Quite simply, the Cardinals were not winning football games.
Bidwill said this was a decision he had made "over the last several weeks" before finally settling on it Sunday night. The Cardinals losing 11 of their last 12 games this season certainly played a role, though it does not appear as if this was at all a rash decision made in the heat of the moment.
It was instead made with the goal of getting the Cardinals back to where Whisenhunt had once taken them, which is the great irony in this entire situation.
The coach's own success led to his demise.
"When you look at the opportunity we had to go to the Super Bowl and getting there, that's something that I want to get back to," Bidwill said. "I want to get back to winning football.
"It's a lot more fun to be winning football games and having the excitement around this organization and so that's why I felt it was time to make a change."
Where the Cardinals go from here will ultimately decide whether this was the right decision. Did Whisenhunt deserve the ax? It's hard to argue he didn't. Will it pay off in the end? Only if the next coach leads to improvement.
Now the attention turns to whom Bidwill will tab to take over.
Giving no specific timetable and noting how the holidays and playoffs may delay the search a little, Bidwill brought up current Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and former Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid as those who he plans on speaking with about the job. He also alluded to the possibility of other coordinators and college coaches being part of the search.
"I'm looking forward to getting involved in that and jumping into that process and getting moving forward on it right away," he said.
Of the names discussed, Reid may be the most intriguing.
The deposed Eagles coach compiled a 130-93-1 mark in Philadelphia, won the NFC East seven times and guided the team to Super Bowl XXXIX. He's a retread, but not in the way most view the term.
And if the coach was being honest when he praised quarterback Kevin Kolb before trading him to Arizona, the biggest knock against the Cardinals is now gone.
After all, in Reid's mind the team would have a quality QB on the roster to go along with its stout defense and future Hall of Fame wide receiver.
But I digress.
Whether Bidwill goes with the flashy choice in Reid, the popular choice in Horton or someone else, the next coach will have some big shoes to fill.
Because while Whisenhunt's tenure in Arizona would be little to write home about elsewhere, guiding the Cardinals to competency like he did certainly is. The last three seasons do not erase the previous three, and now that it's all said and done, he departs as the winningest coach in franchise history.
Indeed, the decision to relieve him of his duties comes with risk as well as disappointment.
Ken Whisenhunt's first game as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals came in a loss to the 49ers in San Francisco.
Did his final game with the club come with the same result against the same team in the same place?
Arizona falling in its season finale by a score of 27-13 Sunday was in no way a surprise.
Hell, the team finishing the season with a 5-11 mark isn't that surprising, especially when you figure eight of 12 Arizona Sports 620 personalities pegged the Cardinals to finish with six or fewer wins this season.
Six times since moving to Arizona have the Cardinals finished a season 5-11, and six more times have they finished a game or two worse than that. Yet, this 5-11 season feels worse than any of those.
The 2012 Cardinals started the season with a 4-0 record.
The 2012 Cardinals have a playoff-caliber defense.
The 2012 Cardinals have talented players dotted all throughout the roster.
None of that mattered.
The 2012 Cardinals are as big of a mess as any previous iteration, with a league-worst offense and a handful of veteran leaders and key players finding their way into Whisenhunt's doghouse.
Adrian Wilson and Darnell Dockett both caught Whisenhunt's ire this season for different reasons, as did John Skelton and Beanie Wells.
Whether it was from mouthing off like Wells, ineffective play like Wilson and Skelton, or for whatever it was Dockett actually did in New York, the fact is the coach tried to send a message via his most important players.
It didn't work as the mistakes, poor play and losses continued.
In fact, nothing Whisenhunt did this year worked, and it's why the Cardinals, for the second time in three years, finished a season with just five wins, which just so happens to be, according to ESPN Stats & Info, a record in futility.
"We just got to continue to get some guys back healthy, continue to eliminate mistakes and we can be a good football team," Whisenhunt told the Arizona Cardinals radio network after the final loss of the season.
If only it was that simple, because it obviously is not.
Every team has injuries and every player makes mistakes.
But most teams don't suffer the type of season-crippling losing streaks the Cardinals have.
So now the Cardinals have some decisions to make, and they're likely to be made by the time 2013 arrives. The direction the franchise chooses to go will have ramifications for many years to come.
Keep Whisenhunt -- on a one-year deal, no less -- and risk losing defensive coordinator Ray Horton to another team. Also say goodbye to the likes of Dockett, Wells and probably Wilson.
Part with the coach of the last six years, though, and take a risk that you can't actually do better than the only man to ever lead the organization to the Super Bowl.
Can the Cardinals do better than Whisenhunt? We don't know the answer to that question.
What we do know, however, is Whisenhunt has a 45-51 record in Arizona, and has compiled a mark of 18-30 in the three years since Kurt Warner retired. In that time not only have the Cardinals lost their fair share of games, but they've also lost considerable ground in the NFC West.
San Francisco? Better.
St. Louis? Better.
A common thread among the three teams who finished ahead of Arizona in division this season is that each hired a new coach in the time since the Cardinals last finished at the top.
The Cardinals should not only take note, but also follow suit.
GLENDALE -- Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell believes his team, which lost to the Chicago Bears by a score of 28-13 Sunday, is not far off from being on the other side scoreboard most games.
"We're a couple pieces away from the puzzle to be a great team, a really good team," he said after the game. "We have all the potential in the world but it's just one piece there, one piece there.
"We fix that and this team can be great."
Campbell admitted it may be tough to believe because the team's record "doesn't really show it", but that there is a sense the Cardinals are closer to being a playoff contender than one might think.
It would be nice to be able to believe him.
The Cardinals did, after all, start the season with a perfect 4-0 record. Arizona also has one of the NFL's best defenses, and that's not likely to change anytime soon. And oh yeah, Larry Fitzgerald is still there to catch passes on offense, which he showed he's still capable of doing with his eight-catch, 111-yard performance Sunday.
Yet the Cardinals, assuming they lose at San Francisco next week, are still going to end this season with a 5-11 record -- their second such mark in three years -- with questions at both quarterback and head coach.
The current head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, took a stab at maybe finding out the answer Sunday when he replaced an ineffective Ryan Lindley in the third quarter with what was ultimately a moderately less ineffective Brian Hoyer.
Signed a couple weeks ago off of waivers, Hoyer completed 11-of-19 passes for 105 yards and an interception. The man he replaced, Lindley, was 17-of-30 for 141 yards and a pick.
"I thought he did a nice job," Whisenhunt said of Hoyer, noting that the interception was not so good. "He got put in as tough a deal as he could be being down with them having a good defensive front that were in pass rush mode."
The signal callers combined to throw 49 passes Sunday; perhaps there should have been a bit more of an emphasis on the run?
It probably didn't matter anyway.
If we learned anything Sunday it's that the Cardinals are, unfortunately, who we thought they were. A team with an outstanding defense and an offense held back by a poor running game and quarterbacks who can only dream of mediocrity.
Needless to say, it looks like Hoyer -- like Lindley, John Skelton, Max Hall, Derek Anderson and probably Kevin Kolb before him -- is not the answer.
"It's tough, isn't it," Whisenhunt asked when addressing the struggles at quarterback. "I said it before, we're not getting the production out of that position and it's hard to win in this league if you don't do better from that standpoint."
Hard? Yes, but the Cardinals are making it seem damn near impossible.
Think about it: the Cardinals began their home slate with John Skelton under center and ended it with Hoyer taking snaps.
Where they go from here is anyone's guess. There's one game left on the docket, and after that the organization will have some decisions to make, some of which will undoubtedly be difficult and controversial.
And maybe Campbell is right about his team when he says they're not far off from being where they want to be. The Cardinals could be just a couple pieces away getting back to the level that saw them win their first four games rather than the one that has seen them lose 10 of their last 11.
But as the post-Kurt Warner Cardinals have taught us, finding a quarterback is much easier said than done. And until that happens, it would appear the good things the team can do will all be for naught.
Have a question or comment for Adam? Feel free to post it here or tweet Adam at @theAdamGreen
Onside kick fails and the Bears take over, kneel down time and this one's over.
28-13 is your final, the Cards end their home schedule with a loss. Pretty terrible effort offensively, but that's the norm for this team. Down to the locker room I go.
1:46 left in fourth quarter
Bears field goal attempt is blocked by Adrian Wilson and scooped up by Justin Bethel. Bethel races 82-yards for the score, and Arizona claws back into this one. Heh.
3:54 left in fourth quarter
Hoyer is picked off trying to force the ball to Fitzgerald and the return gets the Bears to the Arizona 10.
4:33 left in fourth quarter
I was right. The Bears punted and the Cardinals take over at their own 29. Fun stuff, this game.
6:57 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals elect to punt on 4th and 7 inside the 50, a curious decision given where this team is both on the season and in this game. White flag, anyone?
Anyway, return is to the 18 where the Bears will take over before likely punting a few plays from now.
9:54 left in fourth quarter
The Bears decide to answer Arizona's punt with one of their own, and the Cardinals have the ball at the 30. Fans are slowly trickling out of the building. Well, not the Bears fans anyway. They're sticking around.
12:50 left in fourth quarter
Zastudil punts it away and it's downed at the seven. This has turned into a real fun one.
End of third quarter
A short pass to Roberts takes us to the end of the quarter, meaning there are just 15 minutes left in the Cardinals' home slate. They trail 28-6 in this one.
:25 left in third quarter
Defense forces a three-and-out and the punt leaves Arizona with the ball at the 50.
1:43 left in third quarter
Cards move a little but drive ends when Hoyer gets destroyed by Julius Peppers for a sack. Punt is downed at the Chicago 1, so that's nice.
4:59 left in third quarter
Bears get to midfield before being forced to punt. Cardinals defense hasn't quit, gotta give them that. Ball bounces into the end zone and the offense will take over at the 20.
10:26 left in third quarter
Hoyer completes a pass to Roberts, which gets the fans to cheer. Then he throws a couple incompletions, which gets the fans to go "meh". Punt pins the Bears at their own 9.
12:39 left in third quarter
And Brian Hoyer is in the game! The Cards bring the QB in as they start off on their own 20.
12:39 left in third quarter
A holding penalty pushes the Cardinals back and a pass right to Charles Tillman goes for a score. Tillman, of course, is on the Bears, and the pick-six (Lindley's third of the season) gives the Bears a 28-6 lead.
12:54 left in third quarter
Bears get to midfield before an ill-fated screen pass falls incomplete. Punt is fair caught by Peterson at the 10, where Ryan Lindley (still) will go to work.
Why not give Hoyer a look?
Going over some of the stats and I see Ryan Lindley has attempted 28 passes. Makes sense.
Cards will kickoff to begin the 3rd quarter.
Cardinals move the ball to midfield before Lindley's hail mary attempt misses Alfonso Smith on a dump-off. Bears lead 21-6, and you have to wonder if Brian Hoyer will take over after the break.
I think he should.
:19 left in second quarter
Cutler marches the Bears 80 yards in six plays, and finishes things off with an 11-yard TD pass to a wide open Brandon Marshall. The WR beat Peterson on the play, and it looked like the DB expected help from somewhere else. He didn't get it, and a 21-6 deficit is now staring the Cardinals in the face.
2:00 left in second quarter
Jay Cutler doubles his completion total with a 7-yard pass to Marshall, and the Bears have a 2nd and 3 at the moment.
2:18 left in second quarter
Cardinals pick up a first down but go no further, and a third down attempt to Rob Housler is ruled incomplete. Looked like he caught the ball with one hand but was out of bounds in the end zone. Feely makes a 35-yard field goal (yes, he actually kicked it this time) and the Cards pull to within one score.
14-6 Da Bears lead.
5:05 left in second quarter
Cards go three-and-out (surprise surprise) but catch a break when the punt bounces off a Bear. It's picked up by Michael Adams who runs it in for a score, but you cannot advance a muffed punt so the Cards will take over at the Chicago 36. Last time they had this kind of field position they moved all of zero yards, let's hope they do better this time around.
8:18 left in second quarter
Defense gets the stop (with some hissy fits thrown by Patrick Peterson) and the punt is fair caught at the 12. Lindley will "go to work" from there.
8:37 left in second quarter
Bears open the drive with a long run from Forte and now face a 2nd and 8 from the Arizona 47. A touchdown here would pretty much put this game away, no?
9:36 left in second quarter
Cardinals gain no yards on downs one through three and send Jay Feely out for the field goal attempt. Except it's a fake! That goes nowhere.
Feely fumbles the ball forward (can't do that) and the run goes for no gain.
9:55 left in second quarter
Cardinals nearly get a pick but have to settle for a three-and-out. Short punt is returned to the Chicago 32. Safe to say Arizona needs to get points out of this drive.
10:44 left in second quarter
Cardinals pick up a first on a pass to Larry Fitzgerald, but the drive stalls and Zastudil is brought on to punt it away. Devin Hester's return takes forever and goes nowhere, and the Bears will start from their own two.
This is where Forte takes a dive and fumbles, right?
13:12 left in second quarter
Brandon Marshall makes an excellent catch and then Forte scores from four-yards out. Bears on top 14-3 and with the way Arizona's offense struggles, that seems like a HUGE lead.
End of first quarter
Bears lead 7-3 after one but are driving. So far Jay Cutler has yet to complete a pass.
:31 left in first quarter
Bears will start at their own 28 where Matt Forte breaks off a long run to the Arizona 36.
:37 left in first quarter
Cardinals put together a drive, complete with catches by Larry Fitzgerald! However, just when it appears they might do something real good a holding penalty on Nate Potter pushes them back. Arizona settles for a 49-yard Jay Feely field goal.
5:25 left in first quarter
Cardinals force a three-and-out with help of another Calais Campbell sack. Punt is a good one and Greg Toler, who was in there to block, instead gets pushed into and over Patrick Peterson who remained on the ground for a few minutes.
He seems to be OK though, maybe just surprised to be hit? Offense takes over at the 21.
6:23 left in first quarter
Cardinals catch a break when a pass interference negates a Lindley pick, but the drive ends with a sack and a punt ensues.
Bears will start off on their own 16, and this pro-Bears crowd seems to be finding some energy.
8:47 left in first quarter
Hyphen returns the kick 17 yards to the Arizona 17. Oops.
Lindley and the offense back on the field.
8:53 left in first quarter
The ruling on the field stands (even if Beanie Wells couldn't) and the Bears take an early 7-0 lead.
Worth noting the Bears have now scored 31 points in this stadium, and not one of them have come courtesy of an offensive touchdown.
8:53 left in first quarter
A prophet I am not, but on second down Wells loses his footing, gets crushed and coughs up the football. Bears recover for a touchdown and chants of "Let's Go Bears" ring out. Play is under review (as all scoring plays are).
9:18 left in first quarter
Excellent punt is downed on the four, and a Beanie Wells run on first down loses a yard. Great start to this drive.
9:44 left in first quarter
Call is reversed, and it's now fourth and six from the Arizona 46. Cardinals D comes up with the stop -- barely.
9:17 left in first quarter
Cutler airs it out to Brandon Marshall who makes what might be an incredible catch. He's ruled down at the Arizona 14 but Ken Whisenhunt threw the challenge flag.
10:10 left in first quarter
Bears driving with the help of some Cardinals penalties and solid Matt Forte runs. Big 3rd and 6 for the visitors.
12:06 left in first quarter
Cardinals gain a first down on a pass to Larry Fitzgerald (yes, it happened), but then stall and pick up just four on a 3rd and 10. Devin Hester gets a nice return on the punt, and the Bears take over at their own 34.
15:00 left in first quarter
Bears win the toss and elect to kick. Cardinals offense will take the field first, so that's fun.
10:00 until kickoff
About 10 minutes from kickoff and the stadium is starting to fill in some. You can expect a lot of Bears fans today.
Anyway, Cardinals' inactives include QB John Skelton, who has probably seen his career in the desert come to a close. An interesting and disappointing run for a fifth-round pick.
The move makes Brian Hoyer Ryan Lindley's backup, and I'd be shocked if the new guy didn't get some snaps today.
Glendale, Ariz. -- Four weeks into the 2012 NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals were 4-0. They got there because of a stingy defense and big plays from special teams.
Fourteen weeks into the 2012 NFL season, the Arizona Cardinals were 4-9. They got there because a mostly stingy defense was being sabotaged by an incredibly dreadful offense.
Week 15 provided win number five for the Cardinals, and they did it with the same formula that worked in the season's opening month: excellent defense buoyed by a big play on special teams.
Keep in mind, Arizona's offense in the 38-10 win over the Detroit Lions was not particularly good. The team's defense nearly had as many yards on interception returns (186) as the Cardinals offense did all game (196).
Rookie quarterback Ryan Lindley threw for just 104 yards with one interception, running back Beanie Wells, who scored three touchdowns, tallied just 67 yards. And Larry Fitzgerald, whose struggles have been widely talked about, was held to just 22 yards on four receptions.
Yet a win is a win is a win, and for a team that had not earned a victory since Mitt Romney had a chance to win the presidency and no one feared the end of the Twinkie was nigh, it came not a moment too soon.
"Nine weeks in a row to not come out with a win, it feels good to be back home and get a win in front of our home crowd," receiver Fitzgerald said after the game.
"To go through a stretch like that," Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes noted, "I wouldn't wish that on nobody."
The losing streak did happen, though, and with the way the Cardinals played last week in Seattle, conventional wisdom said it was going to be extended Sunday against the struggling-but-still-favored Lions.
Arizona's defense clearly had other ideas. The Cardinals picked off Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford three times -- returning two of the interceptions for touchdowns -- and allowed just a field goal in the second half. It was a far cry from what happened against the Seahawks, and more indicative of what the group is capable of.
"We were embarrassed the way we performed last week," Rhodes said. "We just said to ourselves that we're going to come out hard.
"We have three games left to show this NFL world what we're about as a defense. We wanted to come out and dominate, that's what we did."
"We're a good defense and we know that," safety Adrian Wilson added. "The game last week kind of got away from us, and we just wanted to get back to being on the same page and just really playing good football."
Wilson reached a milestone in Sunday's win, becoming just the sixth player in NFL history to collect 25 sacks and 25 interceptions in his career. The veteran got teary-eyed when talking about the achievement.
"Believe it or not, I'm a very emotional person, and I put a lot of stock in what I do to play here and to give everything that I have here," he said. "It feels good, and we won.
"A lot of the emotions that are coming out now are just thinking through the hard times and being where we're at now."
On the surface, this win does little to help the Cardinals going forward. The victory improved their record to 5-9 on the year, thus hurting their draft position. And with the playoffs long gone as a possibility, many are already looking towards April.
No longer is it just about wins; it's about finding a new quarterback or help for the offensive line. And what happened Sunday likely did nothing to help that quest.
But it did give the Arizona Cardinals a reason to smile, which they haven't really had for quite a while. In fact, some believed it wouldn't happen again this season.
"There was a lot of talk about if our team had quit," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "When it was 7-0 (in the second quarter) and we were punting the ball there, I didn't see any quit in our guys.
"I'm proud of them for that."
At the very least, though, the win serves as a reminder that NFL football players do not quit -- or, at least -- these NFL football players have not quit. And for anyone looking for something to feel good about in a season that has brought little joy of late, that may be about the only thing left to hold onto.
Zastudil punts and the ball rolls out at the Detroit 24.
2:27 left in fourth quarter
Campbell gets a sack, the Lions fold, the Lions punt. Cardinals take over at their own 36.
3:32 left in fourth quarter
Beanie Wells runs 31-yards for the score, and the Cards are...dare we say...piling it on. 38-10.
3:52 left in fourth quarter
Stafford sacked on fourth down, Cardinals take over at the Lions 29.
5:07 left in fourth quarter
The Lions put together a good drive and even score a touchdown, but the play is nullified by a delay of game penalty. A third-and-seven attempt comes up short, and a fourth-and-two pass is picked off by Greg Toler, who takes the ball 102-yards for the touchdown.
Cardinals up 31-10 and this one is over, folks.
9:26 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals go...surprise...three-and-out, and punt the ball away. Detroit has it at the 13.
11:30 left in fourth quarter
Patrick Peterson left the game with cramps, but the Lions do not take advantage and go three-and-out. A hold on the return will push Arizona back to its own 24.
12:34 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals go three-and-out and punt away, though this time Zastudil's kick lands in the end zone for a touchback. Lions begin their drive at the 20.
14:45 left in fourth quarter
Peterson returns the punt 15 yards and the Cardinals have it at their own 49. First play is a Suh sack of Lindley.
15:00 left in fourth quarter
Lions are short of the first and will have to punt, giving Arizona great field position with which they'll probably do nothing. Let's see if Peterson can make something happen on this return, I think he's due.
1:05 left in third quarter
Cardinals get a couple first downs but the drive stalls, and Zastudil punts. Lions have at their own eight.
4:01 left in third quarter
Stephens-Howling gets a good return out of little room, and Arizona will start its drive from the 30.
4:11 left in third quarter
Lions put together a solid drive with help from a big play from Calvin Johnson, but ultimately settle for a 41-yard field goal from Jason Hanson.
Cards up 24-10 and are probably one good drive away from putting this one away.
9:19 third quarter
Lions start at their 20. They kind of need something positive to happen here or they are in danger of being run out of the building by the Cardinals oh wow I can't believe I just typed that.
9:19 left in third quarter
The kick is good, and the Cardinals now lead 24-7. Their eight-play, 30-yard scoring drive nearly doubles the yardage total for the day. How about that.
9:24 left in third quarter
Cardinals drive down the field but come up short on third down. Cardinals send Jay Feely out to attempt a 51-yard field goal, but David Carter is late getting onto the field and Arizona burns a timeout.
12:47 left in third quarter
Cardinals defense comes up big, especially Calais Campbell. That guy is having a monster game.
Punt is returned to the Arizona 37.
Can the Cardinals offense, which gained 41 net yards in the first half, do something?
15:00 left in third quarter
Lions will start the second half with the ball on their own 20. Big drive here if only to set the tone.
The Cardinals enter the half up 21-7 due in no part to the offense's effort. Defense and special teams have stepped up today, which is how this team won early in the season.
Lions QB Matt Stafford has been terrible.
:30 left in second quarter
Stafford is picked off by Rashad Johnson, who takes the ball back 53-yards for the score. Arizona is up 21-7 now, and it seems they have fond the recipe for success:
Incredibly short fields + defensive score.
1:19 left in second quarter
Lions pick up a first down to keep their drive alive, and they have the ball at their own 41 facing a second and six. Points here at the end of the half would be big for the visitors, especially since they get the ball to start the second half.
3:16 left in second quarter
Beanie Wells plows into the end zone on a one-yard run, and the Cardinals take the lead.
Two scoring drives totaling just 8 yards. That's one way to do it.
3:57 left in second quarter
A pair of false starts back the Lions up, then Stafford throws deep and is picked off by Peterson. He returns it to the Detroit three, where Arizona will take over.
4:10 left in second quarter
Punt pins the Lions at their own seven.
6:25 left in second quarter
Defense gets a stop and the Lions punt. Peterson fair catches the ball at the Arizona 19, where the drive will start. Last time the offense had the ball it scored a TD, but that was just a five-yard drive. They've gone aout that far on most other drives today.
9:09 left in second quarter
Lions return kick to the 26, and some pushing and shoving after the play goes unflagged.
9:18 left in second quarter
Beanie Wells takes the handoff up the middle and scores, though the ball came loose and was originally ruled Lions ball. Then touchdown. Then reviewed. Still touchdown.
It's Arizona's first TD since the Rams game a few weeks ago, and we're all tied up in Glendale.
9:29 left in the second quarter
Well played, Cardinals.
Arizona picks up a first down but then the drive stalls, and Zastudil (the player of the game, by the way), punts away. The ball is muffed and recovered by the Cardinals.
Refs rule first that the ball was touched by Arizona, and thus Detroit ball. Then, after "consultation", they decide it belongs to Arizona. First and goal from the 5.
Now the play is under review.
12:44 left in second quarter
Kickoff is returned to the Arizona 21, where the Cardinals' next three-and-out will begin from.
12:51 left in second quarter
Lions cap 73-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run from Mikel Leshoure. Detroit takes a 7-0 lead. Anyone else get the feeling that will be enough for the Lions to win?
End of first quarter
The opening frame ends with the Lions driving and the score tied at 0.
Not really much more to add to that, sorry.
2:55 left in first quarter
Have yourself a day, Dave Zastudil! The Cards go...shocker...three-and-out, and the punt is downed at the Detroit 12.
A personal foul on Mike Adams gives the the Lions 15 yards, so they'll start at the 27.
4:33 left in first quarter
Lions go three-and-out an d punt the ball away.
Amazing how a game between a pair of 4-9 teams could be as bad as this one is thus far. Amazing.
5:38 left in first quarter
In a shocker, the Cardinals go three-and-out. Zastudil's punt is fair caught at the Detroit 20.
7:48 left in first quarter
Cardinals D steps up once again and forces a punt. Peterson returns it to the Arizona 16, where Lindley and the offense will take over.
Worth noting, Arizona Sports' Vince Marotta commented that Ryan Lindley is the worst QB he's ever seen play for the Cardinals. We all know the team's history at the position -- and it's bad -- but is Vince wrong?
8:51 left in first quarter
Lindley's first pass is picked off by DeAndre Levy. Lions take over at their own 48. Sounds about right.
8:59 left in first quarter
Lions take a shot to Calvin Johnson but it's broken up by Patrick Peterson, then a third-down pass falls to the turf and the Lions punt. Peterson gets an OK return, and the Cards start at the Detroit 43. Progress, ladies and gentlemen. Progress...
9:56 left in first quarter
A screen pass doesn't get the job done, but Zastudil gets a good punt away and the Lions will take over at their own nine. If this is anything like last week, this drive will end in a touchdown. Let's see if the D bounces back.
10:49 left in first quarter
The Cardinals moved the ball down the field with successful passes to different receivers and good runs by a trio of backs. However, they've gone backwards on a couple plays now, and face a 3rd and 35 from the Detroit 41.
15:00 left in first quarter
Kick sails into the end zone, and the Ryan Lindley-led offense will start at the Arizona 20.
1:00 until kickoff
The Lions win the toss and elect to kick. For some reason they want the Cardinals' offense on the field first.
8:00 until kickoff
The Cardinals are being introduced to the "sellout" crowd here at University of Phoenix Stadium. I'm eating a delicious cupcake.
Disclaimer: I'm as uneasy about the Arizona Diamondbacks trading Trevor Bauer away as anyone.
That said, I'm willing to reserve judgment on Kevin Towers' latest trade, the one that sent the former No. 3 overall pick along with pitchers Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers in exchange for shortstop Didi Gregorius, first baseman Lars Anderson and pitcher Tony Sipp. The general manager was able to land the shortstop he coveted without having to part with right fielder Justin Upton.
That would have been a real bad move.
In making the trade he did, Towers parted with his second top pitching prospect in as many offseasons, and given how well Jarrod Parker pitched for the Oakland A's last season, the latest deal should definitely give one pause.
And while that deal netted Arizona an established pitcher in Trevor Cahill, this one brought an unproven 22-year-old shortstop who has a reputation for being an excellent defender and mediocre hitter. Could Gregorius develop into a quality starter who fills the team's hole at short for the foreseeable future?
For this trade to work out, he better.
Many believe Bauer is destined to become a frontline starting pitcher, and his minor league track record would suggest just that. However, his four-game stint in the big leagues left much to be desired -- both with his pitching and attitude -- and the team, in its quest to fill holes, felt dealing him was the way to do it.
"When we went into the winter we wanted to improve our bench, we wanted to add a left-handed bat at third base, we wanted to hopefully acquire a shortstop that we would control for some time, a premier shortstop, which we think we did," Towers said Tuesday after the trade was announced.
Towers said he was only willing to part with Bauer if it netted them Gregorius, so it's clear the third-year GM values the 6-foot-1, 185-pound shortstop rather highly.
Many seem to doubt the GM's assessment of Gregorius, with ESPN's Keith Law saying the shortstop "might end up a 2-WAR (wins above replacement) shortstop, but that's about it" and Sports Illustrated's Jay Jaffe writing "the fact remains that Bauer could still emerge as the best of [Arizona's starting pitching] bunch within the time that he's under the Indians' control, and the key player the Diamondbacks got in return for him, former Red Gregorius, is not guaranteed to fix their shortstop problems."
However, Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan wrote "The unpredictability of Towers scares other executives, who wonder if he's really as crazy as he seems or if he actually knows more than everyone else and is fleecing people with a smile on his face", and that's the key here.
There is no guarantee that Bauer will be a successful major leaguer, just as there is nothing that says Gregorius has to be an abject failure. Just because Bauer was recently selected at the top of the draft does not mean he will be an outstanding player who should never be traded.
See Beasley, Michael if you subscribe to the theory that high picks should be untouchable.
As it stands, the Diamondbacks obviously felt of all the starting pitchers at their disposal -- Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill, Wade Miley, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin, David Holmberg, Archie Bradley, Brandon McCarthy and Trevor Bauer -- it was Bauer who was the most expendable.
Not all of the D-backs' top pitching prospects were going to make an impact in Arizona; some were destined to be dealt. Towers' job is to determine which are least likely to succeed and then make a move while they still have value.
And speaking of value, it appears the right-hander's was not nearly as high as many thought. At least, not if the "prize" in the deal was a prospect as middling as Gregorius.
"We've got very good reports on him," Towers said of the shortstop. "He's athletic, could probably play defensively right now in the big leagues.
"When I saw him, he reminded me of a young Derek Jeter."
That's a lofty claim, especially given the fact that Gregorius is a career .271 hitter with minimal power and pedestrian speed on the base paths.
Towers said his gut tells him Bauer is going to have a "very good career" and that his hope is this is a deal that works out for both teams.
"He was a tough guy to part with; we were fortunate that we have a lot of pitching depth," he added.
The Diamondbacks now have a little less pitching depth but another option at shortstop. They may have just surrendered a future ace and received a utility infielder, or, maybe, they sold high on a pitcher about to flame out in the Majors and acquired the next great middle infielder.
Then again, perhaps the result will be something in between.
As far as eras go, the Ken Whisenhunt-led one in Arizona has been incredibly successful.
Two NFC West championships. Super Bowl XLIII. Four non-losing seasons in six years.
It has also been disappointing.
The Cardinals won 27 regular season games in Whisenhunt's first three years with the team; they've won just 17 in the last three. That he had so much early success is undoubtedly working against the coach now, as most are somewhat understanding -- even forgiving -- when a team is building, but rarely tolerate going in the wrong direction.
And if the Cardinals did not hit rock bottom in their record-setting loss to the Seahawks Sunday, they're certainly damn close as they continue on that path.
Then again, if a 58-0 loss is not as bad as it gets -- with Seahawks fans having a party at the Cardinals' expense while feeling pity for the team's fans (seriously, an Arizona fan wearing a paper bag on his head was the most popular person on the building, with Seahawks faithful lining up to take pictures with him) -- I shudder at the thought of what could be worse.
The coach said Monday that, upon viewing film from the game, he determined his team did not quit. Everyone else who watched the game knows that simply is not the case.
So, as my colleague Dave Burns pointed out, it can be difficult to know when the end of an era is at hand. But at this point we all know it's time for a change. Many changes.
Whisenhunt and his staff will not be the only ones shown the door, though. Veterans Darnell Dockett and Adrian Wilson may be winding down their outstanding Cardinals careers, too, and by the time the dust settles the only players left from Arizona's Super Bowl team could be Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Calais Campbell and Lyle Sendlein.
And who knows, with no quarterback, a new coach and a big contract, perhaps Fitz may be on his way out, too. It all may be torn down and rebuilt from the ground up.
Super Bowl XLIII was four years ago, folks.
Things were never as good as they were then and likely have never been as bad as they are now. Cardinals fans have experienced incredible highs and terrible lows during Whisenhunt's six-year stint as the boss, and while he will largely be remembered for his stubbornness and inability to solve the Rubix Cube that is the quarterback position, it's unfair to label him as a bad coach, because he's not.
In fact, he's the best coach in Arizona Cardinals history.
However, that's not reason enough to keep him around. The fear that the Cardinals cannot do better -- and who knows, maybe they can't -- is not a reason to maintain the status quo.
The pre-Whiz Cardinals would have settled for mediocrity, viewing a coach with a record as close to .500 as Whisenhunt's as a great success. But while the score Sunday may have painted a different picture, these are not the "Same Old Cardinals".
Disasters like the one Sunday will not be tolerated by fans, and it's hard not to see ownership feeling the same way.
After all, the Bidwills know what winning feels like, and fans understand the franchise can be successful. No longer is being not-embarrassing the goal, rather it's to be good. Very good.
And in a bit of an ironic twist, we have Ken Whisenhunt to thank for that.
How else would you explain the decision to name John Skelton the starting quarterback for Sunday's game in Seattle?
"Some of it has to do with Seattle -- playing up there, having played against them once already this year," Whisenhunt said of the move. "There are a lot of factors, but I'm not going into each one of them."
He doesn't have to. We already know.
It was obvious to anyone who watched the Cardinals over the last few weeks that for his many faults, Skelton was then and still is a better option at quarterback than Ryan Lindley.
Skelton has completed just 54.7 percent of his passes this season. Lindley? 48.5.
Skelton has thrown just two touchdown passes against five interceptions. Lindley? Zero touchdown passes and five picks.
The only knock against Lindley is that he's not ready to be an NFL starter right now, which is exactly what one would expect from a quarterback taken in the sixth round of the draft. The blame for Lindley's struggles -- and those of the team with him under center -- falls squarely on the head coach's shoulders, which is why he made the move back to Skelton.
And given reports this week that the Cardinals front office has had some discussions about Ray Horton -- presumably his viability as a Whisenhunt replacement -- it stands to reason the Cardinals head coach is looking at these final four games as a final chance to keep his job.
Really, how many coaches would survive a 12-game losing streak in year six of their tenure?
Even with Skelton under center -- or maybe in part because Skelton is under center -- the possibility of Arizona losing out remains strong. Would one more win be enough to warrant keeping the head coach? How about two? Three or four would have to do it, right?
Who knows. In fact, the decision may have already been made.
But if you're Whisenhunt, the move back to Skelton had to be made.
It would have been impossible to sell his locker room on the idea that Lindley gave them the best chance to win, and continuing to trot the rookie onto the field surely would have been met with frustration from the players and rolling eyes from fans and media alike.
As well as losses.
So Whisenhunt went back to a quarterback he clearly does not believe in in a last ditch effort to save his job.
With the Cardinals' record along with their schedule, it may prove to be too little, too late.
Rarely does a sporting event live up to its pre-game billing, but the Cardinals' visit to New York did exactly that.
This game, which the Jets "won" by a score of 7-6, was every bit as poorly played as we thought it would be. In fact, it may have even been more pathetic than anticipated.
The Jets' Mark Sanchez threw three interceptions. The Cardinals' longest play from scrimmage was a fake punt. And Ryan Lindley, the Cardinals' latest in a long list of disasters at quarterback, completed 10-of-31 passes for 72 yards and one interception.
Sanchez was benched in the third quarter; Lindley played the entire game. Sanchez's replacement threw the game-winning touchdown pass. As for Lindley?
"You look at it and you say he's got to play better, and he does," Whisenhunt told the Arizona Cardinals Radio Network after the game. "If he wants to be the quarterback of this team he's got to play better than that, and I think he understands that."
There's little doubt Lindley would like to be the team's quarterback, and who knows, maybe in time he will be. But right now it's obvious he's not anywhere close to being ready for the job. The coaching staff recognized that, too, and considered making a change Sunday afternoon.
"But at the time where we were, the way he talked on the sideline and was handling what he needed to handle as the quarterback and then he made the good throw to Michael (Floyd) on the sideline after we got the turnover there late," the coach said, adding he thought the Cardinals were going to score a touchdown on the fourth quarter drive instead of having to settle for a Jay Feely field. "You consider all those things and you ultimately go with what you think gives you the best chance to win."
Lindley completed less than 1/3 of his passes and averaged fewer than three yards per attempt. The Cardinals went 0-for-15 on third down and moved the chains just five times. And yet, he gave the team the best chance to win?
If Lindley gives the team its best chance to win, one must wonder what the prize is. After all, it's too late to suck for Luck.
Anyway, it's the same baseless claim the coach had when he replaced John Skelton in Atlanta with a lead, after Lindley's pair of pick-sixes cost Arizona a chance to beat the Rams, and now after the rookie put forth a miserable effort in the Big Apple.
Either Whisenhunt is lying to us, and he really has given up on the season and is rolling with the rookie with an eye towards the future, or he's just clueless when it comes to the quarterback position.
Both options are currently still on the table.
The Cardinals coach is backed into a corner with this one. Kevin Kolb may be ready to come back, but what good comes from giving him the starting job with the playoffs out of reach and the QB not likely to return next season? It would be tough to turn back to Skelton, a third-year player who likely has little confidence left after the coach turned his back on him with a 10-point lead just a few short weeks ago. Like Kolb, Skelton is not likely to return in 2013.
And Lindley, a sixth-round pick who has no business playing right now but will be back next year, has shown nothing that would make someone think the team will win any of the final four games with him under center.
What's a coach to do?
Deal with the mess he made and suffer the ramifications.
It's been said that Whisenhunt is one of the game's best and smartest coaches, and it's easy to see why.
After all, he guided the Cardinals to the Super Bowl, and was well-respected enough that Peyton Manning paid the franchise a visit last March when he was looking for a new team.
However, with Whisenhunt's smarts have come a certain level of confidence that, unfortunately, has led to some questionable decisions over the last few seasons.
Is it a case of "I'm smarter than you, and I'm going to prove it?"
Kind of looks that way.
What else would you call Whisenhunt's decision to turn to Derek Anderson and Max Hall in 2010? Why else would the Cardinals trade for Kolb and ask him to fit the offense instead of adapting the offense to fit the QB?
And how else could someone interpret the reactionary decision to bench a struggling-but-winning Skelton in favor of a rookie who, through no fault of his own, has no business being on the field right now?
Quarterback controversies are fun; quarterback ineptitude is painful to watch.
And when the issues are created by a head coach who seems unable to fix things?
There's really only one thing to do.
The last time the Arizona Cardinals lost eight-straight games was 2006, when the team was breaking in a first-round draft pick named Matt Leinart. The slide was embarrassing, and it helped usher Dennis Green out of town.
Ken Whisenhunt is a better coach than Green, but at this point it's tough not to expect him to suffer a similar fate.
Perhaps expecting anything more would have been our own fault.
After all, how many quarterbacks taken in the sixth round of the NFL draft have success in their career, let alone year one?
So to ask Ryan Lindley to come in and beat a Rams defense that held the Cardinals to just three points nearly two months ago may have simply been unfair.
Lindley completed 31-of-52 passes for 312 yards and four interceptions, two of which were taken back for touchdowns by Rams rookie Janoris Jenkins.
He was not particularly good, but that probably should have been expected.
"It really comes down to turning the ball over, especially pick-sixes, it's hard to overcome those," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said after the game.
The Cardinals lost the turnover battle 4-1 and the game 31-17. It was their seventh-consecutive loss, the second such streak they've had in the last three seasons.
Whisenhunt lamented how his team missed opportunities Sunday, which has been a theme over the last two months.
"We had some opportunities in the second half on throws and we missed them," the coach said. "And you can't do that. We've got guys running down the field open.
"You can't miss those opportunities."
A week ago the coach benched John Skelton because the quarterback failed to connect on big throws, and the coach said there was some thought to pulling Lindley Sunday.
But alas, no change was made.
"If we thought it was something that was going to help us we would have done that," he said. "We aren't apposed to that, but at the time, just in everything considering it, we just felt like we had to stick with Ryan."
Whisenhunt pointed to Lindley being a rookie who will have to learn from outings like this one, and later said the team is not giving up on this season in an effort to get a look at certain players.
"We want to win games, so we aren't going to evaluate personnel over trying to win games," he said.
He could have had us fooled.
No matter how the coach tries to spin it, Lindley is not a better option than Skelton if the goal is to win games. A team looking to make a playoff push would not replace its starting quarterback with a rookie when it has a lead on the road, and it certainly would not name a sixth-round pick the starting quarterback if it believes the postseason is still a reality.
Even the team's game day program didn't believe Lindley would start, as it still had Skelton listed first on the depth chart.
Then again, this is the coaching staff that promoted the undrafted Max Hall to the starting lineup in Week 5 back in 2010.
Incidentally, that was the last time the Cardinals lost seven straight games.
"We've got to find a way to get a win," Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "I am pretty much lost for words now after seven weeks of saying the same thing."
Fitzgerald was targeted 13 times on the afternoon, and in a horrible twist of fitting irony, the Rams caught as many passes intended for the Fitzgerald (3) as the receiver himself came down with.
It was that kind of day. It's been that kind of season.
And while no one will say it, Whisenhunt's actions as well as the reality of the team's situation lead to the thought that whatever happens from here, everything that happens next is about the future more than the present.
"Right now we've got to continue to keep fighting," linebacker Daryl Washington said. "We've got five games left and see where we fall."
Looking at the schedule, it's tough to see when the Cardinals may next win a game. It could be next week in New York against the Jets, or maybe a few weeks from now when they host the Detroit Lions.
Or, worst-case scenario, it could come sometime next season.
If that's the case, it may be after some big offseason changes. How could there not be?
"That's part of the business," Whisenhunt said when asked about his job security. "You know what, we're working hard. Nobody feels worse about this than we do."
Whisenhunt went on to say there is disappointment for the fans because of how supportive they are of the Cardinals.
"All I can tell you is that we are going to get it straight."
Have a question or comment for Adam? Feel free to post it here or tweet Adam at @theAdamGreen
End of game
That's going to do it for another lousy game in Glendale. The Cardinals fall to the Rams by a score of 31-17. It's their seventh-consecutive loss and their record falls to 4-7 on the year.
:44 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals turn the ball over on downs and the Rams will kneel on the ball to run out the clock.
2:00 left in fourth quarter
The Cardinals force a punt and get good field position. A pass to Andre Roberts gives them a first-and-10 from the Rams 21.
2:42 left in fourth quarter
The Cardinals drove the field but had a pass bounce off Larry Fitzgerald's hands -- and the hands of many others -- before being picked off. Rams ball. And game.
5:27 left in fourth quarter
Legatron makes the field goal and it's now 31-17. Barring a miracle this one is over, which is what many of the fans think as they head for the exits.
6:05 left in fourth quarter
The Rams have the ball at the Arizona 1 with a fourth-and-1, and while this play probably won't decide the game, it is still technically a big one.
12:26 left in fourth quarte
Another three-and-out, another punt.
This game has gone south in a hurry.
13:30 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals force a punt and will start their drive at the 24. Over/under how many plays before a turnover?
OK, that may be a bit harsh, but this second half has been abysmal for the Arizona offense.
End of third quarter
Rams have the ball and a commanding lead.
Sorry, that's all I've got.
:14 left in third quarter
Cards go three-and-out and punt away to a chorus of boos. I'd join them but I assume the "no cheering in the press box" rule also applies to negative feedback.
2:28 left in third quarter
Lindley, looking for Fitz, throws off his back foot to Janoris Jenkins. It's taken back for a TD and now the Rams are up by a score of 28-17.
This one is getting away from Arizona.
2:39 left in third quarter
The Rams respond to Arizona's punt with one of their own, though the visitors are winning the field position game this quarter.
The Cards will start at their own 22 needing to do something positive on offense. It's been a while.
4:23 left in third quarter
Three-and-out for the Cardinals and Zastudil punts the ball away. Bethel with an excellent tackle for no return, but the Rams will start at their own 28. They are a drive away from really making this tough on Arizona.
5:53 left in third quarter
With the help of a holding penalty the Cardinals D stands, and Legatron misses from 35-yards to swing the momentum back to the Cardinals.
Arizona still down four, but could be worse.
8:24 left in third quarter
One moment Lindley looks great, the next he looks like a rookie.
The QB and Larry Fitzgerald read the coverage differently, with Fitz going deep and Lindley expecting a shorter route. The result is an interception with a long return, and the Rams can really make this tough on the Cardinals with another TD here.
9:58 left in third quarter
They moved as far as they could.
Brandford hits Chris Givens with a perfect throw for a 37-yard score, and just like that the Rams are on top. Justin Behtel was beaten on the play, but that was more of a great throw/catch than poor coverage.
10:17 left in third quarter
Quentin Groves helped off the field, giving us a break. In the meantime the Rams are gashing the Cardinals on the ground, which isn't a good thing. They're at the AZ 37 and moving.
11:11 left in third quarter
Cardinals move the chains but not far enough, bringing Zastudil in to punt.
It's a good one, and the Rams will start from their own eight.
15:00 left in third quarter
Cards begin drive at their 20. Let's see if they can build off the momentum from that last drive.
Cardinals agreed with me and went for points, and a good drive leads to a Feely field goal. Cards go into the half with a 17-14 lead.
And by the way, the ref Corrente explains "THIS is the end of the first half." We all chuckled.
1:47 left in second quarter
William Powell returns the ball 25 yards to the Arizona 23, where Lindley will go to work.
Do the Cards open the offense up and look for points or will they play it safe? I'd look for points.
1:53 left in second quarter
Bradford comes out and hits Lance Kendricks for a 37-yard touchdown. He was WIDE open. Just like that we're tied here in Glendale.
2:00 left in second quarter
Ref announces "that's the end of the first half" though it's just the two minute warning. Not a good day for Tony Corrente thus far.
Anyway, the Rams are at the Arizona 37 looking to put some points on the board before the end of the half. Would be a good momentum boost for AZ to come up with a stop, especially since the Cardinals are set to get the ball to begin the second half.
3:26 left in second quarter
Quentin Groves drills Sam Bradford after a pass and the QB leaves the game. Kellen Clemens is on to replace him so, uhh, yeah.
3:32 left in second quarter
Cardinals go three-and-out and Zastudil is brought on to punt. A 52-yard boot puts the ball at the St. Louis 29.
4:36 left in second quarter
The Rams drove down into the red zone and Peterson picks off a pass in the end zone. Huge play, one of the few big ones he's made this year.
Ball is a touchback and Arizona starts at the 20. First play is one where Lindley misses an open Fitzgerald deep.
Haven't had that happen often the last few years.
7:45 left in second quarter
Cardinals are offsides on the kickoff. Rams will start drive at their own 30, looking to respond to a...gasp...Cardinals touchdown.
7:52 left in second quarter
Congratulations are in order if you started Beanie Wells on your fantasy team today, as the RB just scored for the second time in the game.
His 12-yard jaunt caps a nice drive, highlighted by Lindley hitting Rob Housler down the seam for a nice gain.
The Cards are up 14-7 and Wells looks pretty spry. Not bad.
11:13 left in second quarter
Daryl Washington comes in unblocked and sacks Sam Bradford on third down. It's his 9th sack of the season, which is apparently one shy of the franchise record for sacks in a season by a linebacker.
I'm not one to question coaches, so I guess it makes sense not to make sure No. 58 in red is accounted for.
The punt has the Cards starting from their own 35.
13:21 left in second quarter
Drive goes nowhere and Cards punt it away. The refs do a great job of confusing everyone with penalty calls, and whatever the reason, St. Louis will take over at the 20. OK then.
Check that, ref announces the ball will be placed at the 21. Yeah, that's how it's gonna be.
Still 14:52 left in second quarter
Cards will begin their next drive at the 20. Let's see how the rookie responds from his first career interception.
As I type that he throws a bit behind Robert Housler down the middle. Catchable ball, but not where it is supposed to be.
14:52 left in second quarter
Lindley, looking for Stephens-Howling in the flat, is picked off by Janoris Jenkins. He returns the ball 36 yards for a score, and we're all tied up here in Glendale.
Rookie on rookie crime right there.
End of first quarter
Well that does it for the first quarter, with the Cards up 7-0. Offensively they were about as good as you could hope, and the defense came up with a pair of stops.
Not a bad start for a team that desperately needed a good one.
:24 left in first quarter
Rams move a bit but are forced to punt, and Patrick Peterson nearly breaks the return for a TD. Instead it just gets the Cards to their 31, where Lindley and the offense will go to work.
Still 2:41 left in first quarter
Feely's kickoff goes out of the end zone and the Rams will start at their own 20.
Hey defense, you have an early lead: what are you planning on doing about it?
2:41 left in first quarter
The Cardinals take a 7-0 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Beanie Wells.
Ryan Lindley put together a real nice drive, one that was both hindered and aided by dumb penalties. He looked accurate and made good decisions. Good start for Arizona.
15 play, 91-yard drive.
11:37 left in first quarter
Rams pick up a first down but the Arizona defense holds, and a punt puts the Cards at their own 9 to start.
Time for the Ryan Lindley show!
15:00 left in first quarter
Jay Feely's kick lands in the end zone, Rams start at the 20. Make that the 25 after David Carter jumps offsides.
Cards D played well last week against Atlanta; team could use a similar effort today.
St. Louis will receive the opening kickoff as the Cards look to end their six-game losing skid and avenge a loss to the Rams earlier in the season.
As I'm sure you haven't heard by now , the Cardinals ended last season's losing skid against this very same Rams team in this very same building.
On a side note, the game was announced as a sellout, but there are a decent amount of empty seats in the building.
12:00 before kickoff
Finishing up some apple pie and settling into my seat in the press box. The Cardinals and Rams in a game someone has to win, right? Well, the Rams proved a couple weeks ago that's not exactly the case.
At any rate, interested to see how Ryan Lindley does today in his first NFL start.
Before that happens, check out Jarrett Carlen's ode to Arizona's QB issues by clicking here.
Ryan Lindley was no better than John Skelton Sunday afternoon in Atlanta.
And why should he have been?
A sixth-round pick this past April, Lindley is in no way ready to lead an NFL team…on the road…against one of the best teams in the NFL.
Yet, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt elected to turn to the rookie in place of Skelton with the Cardinals up 13-0 because, as he told the Arizona Cardinals Radio Network after the game, "The message this week was that we're going to make a change at different positions and the quarterback isn't exempt from that.
"If they're not making the plays -- enough plays -- to win, then you've got to look and see if the next guy can do that. That's why you have depth at positions and that's why you do that."
Whisenhunt said some throws were missed early, and this is true. Skelton came out of the gate playing about as poorly as he could, firing wide on nearly every throw and missing a wide-open Larry Fitzgerald on the first play following Matt Ryan's third interception of the day on a throw that, had it been accurate, would have given Arizona a 17-0 lead.
He was bad. But Whisenhunt had to know Lindley, playing in a regular season game for the first time in his career, would not be any better.
And he wasn't, finishing the day completing just 9-of-20 passes for 64 yards. The offense was as miserable as it's ever been with Lindley under center, and that was with a solid effort from the run game to go along with a superb defensive performance.
That the move was made in a game the Cardinals were leading should not be much of a surprise, as Skelton had completed just 2-of-7 passes at the time and was playing poorly.
One gets the feeling this decision was in the works for some time, and the coach was just waiting for the chance to get Lindley into a game.
It's a move there might be no going back from.
Kevin Kolb is not coming back next year. His salary along with his injury history and general ineffectiveness will assure that. Even when he's healthy, with a playoff run out of the question, what is there to gain from sending him back onto the field?
But Skelton, who played well enough last year to get a shot at the starting job this season, had done poorly enough this year to lead Whisenunt to look for a reason to send him to the bench.
This is a player who, while a notorious slow starter, had thrown for 306, 290 and 262 yards in his last three games.
This is the quarterback Coach Whiz chose to be his starter heading into the season, folks.
The decision seemed like a sound one at the time. Kolb was a mess in the preseason and Skelton, while not great, was better. And considering how he played last season, the Fordham product appeared to be heading in the right direction.
But he's regressed this season, and that's worrisome.
Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb and now John Skelton. All younger quarterbacks, all never improved under Whisenhunt. In fact, one could argue most of them even regressed.
Whisenhunt's history with quarterbacks, save for his time with Kurt Warner, is checkered at best.
And with the way he's handled both Kolb and Skelton, one has to wonder how they feel about their head coach, too.
But that's purely speculation, possibly of the unfair variety.
What we do know is the Cardinals have now tried six different quarterbacks since Kurt Warner retired, and of the six, not one looks to be anything more than a backup in the NFL.
While there are no guarantees, it would seem likely the Cardinals will once again be looking for a quarterback in the offseason. It's becoming an annual ritual. It needs to stop.
Ken Whisenhunt and his staff appear unable to handle the quarterback position, bungling it so poorly that it has basically crippled what would otherwise be a pretty good football team. And whether the coaches are poor talent evaluators or simply unable to coax the best out of their passers, the fact remains the most important position in sports seems as hopeless as ever with regards to the Arizona Cardinals.
And nothing that happened Sunday did anything to change that perspective.
The Sun Devils have gone from 5-1 to 5-5 (they were 5-4 when the tweet was sent), so yeah, the slide could be seen as "unbelievable".
Except, as my colleague Vince Marotta writes, all this shows is this year's Devils are not any different from the team's fielded the last few years, where prolonged losing streaks have been kind of the norm.
As an Arizona alum and fan, I'd be lying if I said ASU's struggles aren't at least a little amusing.
They're also not surprising -- at least, not to the extent my friend should be shocked at what's transpired.
A few weeks back when the Sun Devils were getting ready to face the Oregon Ducks, I wrote, among other things, that it was tough to buy ASU as a "good team" because they hadn't played anyone of note.
At the time I wrote that piece, ASU's strength of schedule was 76th in the nation according to Sagarin. Now? A healthy 22nd.
The truth is this Sun Devils team was never that good. There is a reason they were never ranked at 5-1, and there's a reason they've lost the last four contests. The easy part (Washington State not included) of their schedule has passed, leaving nothing but the Pac-12's best on the docket. You know, with starting quarterbacks and other things good teams have.
Good teams make less-good teams look bad. That's how sports work.
But it's OK.
A month ago I wrote that not all 5-1 records are created equal. Now I'm writing the same for four-game losing streaks, too.
It was easy to get over Steve Nash deserting Phoenix for Hollywood.
He is an aging point guard whose game is declining (even if only a little), so if the two-time MVP wanted to hitch his wagon to the horse that is Kobe Bryant in search of a championship, that's his business.
But seeing Mike D'Antoni follow Nash to L.A. is different. It's brutal. It's unacceptable.
D'Antoni, who you may recall, presided over one of the most successful runs in Suns history. The team went 232-96 in the regular season under his stewardship, which averages out to a record of 58-24. Phoenix won 26 playoff games with D'Antoni at the helm, and many of us felt this was the coach who would bring the Valley its first NBA title.
But alas, he couldn't.
Some will point to Joe Johnson's broken face in 2005, an injury-riddled team in 2006 or the suspensions in 2007 as reasons for why the Suns fell short. Others believe D'Antoni's stubbornness with regards to defense and playing his bench led to the team's demise.
All those people are right -- to an extent.
There is one more anti-D'Antoni argument, and it's the one that scares me the most right now with regards to the coach leading the Lakers:
His system cannot win a championship in the NBA.
We should hope those people are wrong, and that's what makes this whole situation so damn difficult to stomach.
There is little doubt D'Antoni will be a better coach in Los Angeles than he ever was in Phoenix or New York, where he failed due to a variety of different factors, many of which were out of his control. Though he's stubborn, it's tough to believe he hasn't learned from the past with regards to using his bench. Besides, it's not likely people will be clamoring for the coach to give the likes of Steve Blake, Antawn Jamison and Devin Ebanks significant minutes.
And D'Antoni's teams, while not playing anything that could be considered "good" defense, were not really as bad as you remember.
His Suns teams did give up a ton of points from 2004-2008. However, their point differential over the four years was +7.1, +5.6, +7.3 and +5.1.
Phoenix won, won a lot, and won comfortably. Sure, the other team may have lit up the scoreboard, but is there any difference between a 110-103 win and a 90-83 victory?
Opponents scored a lot of points not because the Suns were a sieve on that side of the court, but rather because of the sheer number of possessions they had. Phoenix's defensive rating was no lower than 17th in the NBA under D'Antoni, and was as high as 13th one season.
And this was with Steve Nash, who couldn't guard a chair, at point guard, and Amare Stoudemire, who refused to guard anyone, guarding the bucket.
Now he'll have Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest (I refuse to call him the other name) and Dwight Howard. And Steve Nash and Pau Gasol.
Plenty of experts at ESPN, along with many here at Arizona Sports 620, pegged the Lakers as a championship team before the season began, and that was with Mike Brown running the show.
Now they have a better coach who has experienced real success with a roster far less talented than the one he just inherited.
The Lakers were going to win games regardless of whether they made a coaching change or not, though now you have to believe their chances of hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy at the end of the season have improved.
D'Antoni's brand of basketball is both effective and entertaining, and there is little doubt other teams would be quick to emulate it if they felt it could bring them a championship.
As basketball fans, we should all be rooting for the coach to succeed and bring home the hardware.
As Suns fans, though, nothing would be more painful than seeing him bring it to Los Angeles.
My cousin calls Lambeau Field "Valhalla", and it was great to finally see the place in person.
Home of the Green Bay Packers and the Arizona Cardinals' latest loss, is a hell of a place. The stadium is located in a residential neighborhood, and there is no upper deck -- only a giant lower bowl. The entire city basically shuts down on game day, and even the local McDonald's is painted with a green and gold color scheme.
It leads to a college-like atmosphere, with fans as knowledgeable as they are passionate. They really love their Packers in a way many of us would not be able to understand.
It's a great environment to watch a football game, though I imagine my experience would have been different if I was wearing Vikings or Bears colors. If anything, it seemed like the crowd felt bad for me more than anything.
Seriously, the worst heckling I got was "Arizona? What are you doing here?
I responded by saying "Freezing my ass off."
If posed with a similar question, the Cardinals could have easily responded with the same answer as the last few weeks.
"Ruining our season, one play at a time."
It truly was a team effort Sunday.
Whether it was due to poor play calling, dropped passes, lousy special teams play or defensive lapses, the Cardinals once again ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.
Bad teams find ways to lose games, and right now the Cardinals are a really bad team.
It was fifth straight loss, and the only saving grace is that number six is at least two weeks away when they pay a visit to the undefeated Atlanta Falcons.
It will be loss number six, which will likely be followed by numbers seven, eight, nine and 10. It is simply tough to see this team turning things around.
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt, ever the optimist (outwardly), refuses to give in and say his team is more the squad that's lost the last five games than the one that won its first four games.
"We still believe we can win football games on the back end of this season and be a good football team and that's what your focus is," the coach said. "We're not just making change to make change. If we make a change we're looking to make our team better."
Maybe he's right. Just five weeks ago the discussion was about just how far the Cardinals could go, as their elite defense was enough to carry a pedestrian offense to wins on a weekly basis. The team's arrow was clearly pointing upward, and there was little question that these were not the "Same Old Cardinals".
It's getting increasingly more difficult to buy into that line of thinking these days.
Sure, a change at left tackle may help, and it's possible the emergence of the Michael Floyd will impact the offense in a greater way than we can speculate.
And with Beanie Wells set to return soon, perhaps the offense will finally have the balance it so desperately seeks.
Possible? Yes. Likely? Nope.
Call it pessimism born from a five-game skid or just an admission of reality, but things are not looking good for the team this season. No changes of any real significance will be made over the next two months.
In Norse mythology, Valhalla is a place where heroes slain in battle are received so they can wait before being deployed into battle once again. It's a place of honor, glory, happiness.
The Packers have their stadium. The Cardinals, if they're lucky, will have next season.
For the first time since 2009, the Phoenix Suns are interesting.
No longer are they a veteran-led team just spinning its wheels hoping to squeeze one last playoff push out of an era that had run its course. Gone are the likes of Steve Nash and Grant Hill, the final remnants of a Suns squad that just couldn't quite get it done.
The year Joe Johnson broke his face, the injuries, the suspensions, the disappointment. It all happened. It's all in the past.
The Phoenix Suns as you knew them are gone, and in their place a team that no one can say they know won't be any good or are sure can't compete.
In fact, the only thing that's certain is that for the first time in the Lon Babby/Lance Blanks tenure, this is their team.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals are partying like it's 2010, complete with a Monday night blowout at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.
But unlike a couple years ago, no one is laughing about this one.
Following a 24-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers Monday night in Glendale, it's apparent that no matter how good a team's defense might be, it will all be for naught if the same team's offense is simply dreadful.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2012 Arizona Cardinals.
Defensively, the effort put forth by the team in Monday's loss was sad. The score was 17-0 at halftime and 24-0 before the Cards even got on the board.
Without a doubt, the first quarter defense stunk. The Cardinals gave up just seven points, but the 49ers racked up 116 yards of offense. The visitors had the ball for 11:27 of a possible 15 minutes.
"A lot of missed tackles; some mistakes," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said after the game. "We had opportunities to get them off the field and we didn't do that. We didn't tackle very well. Everybody's got to be held accountable for those things."
Whisenhunt may want to hold the defense accountable, but Cardinals fans should want to throw the group a parade. After all, the more they are on the field the less the offense is.
And for the Arizona Cardinals, who gained just 265 yards of offense on the evening, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Unfortunately, Arizona's defense is simply not good enough to overcome the ineptitude on the other side of the ball. Miraculously they were able to come up with just enough plays over the last year or so to win -- a lot -- but their luck has run out.
The Cardinals have been exposed -- twice on national TV -- and there is no hiding from the fact that this historically bad offense will wreck things for this historically (at least, by Cardinals standards) good defense.
To their credit, no one on the defense is ready to point a finger at their teammates on the other side of the ball.
"I think that as a defense we know what we have to do to win games," defensive end Calais Campbell said. "It comes down to doing it."
Campbell said the Cardinals did not play a good game against the 49ers, offensively, defensively or on special teams. He's right, as the Cardinals were all-around terrible.
"It wasn't like we played a good game so we can't point fingers at all," Campbell added. "We've got to look in the mirror and look at ourselves."
Indeed, the defense could have played better. Alex Smith should never throw more touchdown passes than incompletions, and the tackling couldn't have been much worse. But at some point it is simply unfair to expect Ray Horton's players to be great every week. They should be allowed to have an off game, and in a perfect world the offense would be there to bail them out.
But this world is not perfect, and these Cardinals are far from it.
"We didn't get the job done," Whisenhunt said. "It was disappointing to say the least."
It's also to be expected. This team, quite frankly, is just not good enough to overcome its most fatal of flaws. It hasn't been good for a while.
Two years ago Derek Anderson was quoted saying many things after a bad loss to the 49ers on Monday night. Part of his meltdown tirade included: "It's not funny. Nothing's funny to me. I don't want to go out there and get embarrassed in front of everybody."
Quarterback John Skelton, who was on the team then but did not play in the game, was less combative yet equally upset Monday night.
"To only put up three points, that's embarrassing, as an offense and as a team," he said. "It's in front of a national audience and we only put up three points and lost by 21.
"It's frustrating and it's humiliating to be honest."
The more things have changed, the more they've stayed the same. And for the Arizona Cardinals, that's not a good thing.
Have a question or comment for Adam? Feel free to post it here or tweet Adam at @theAdamGreen
End of game
No garbage time TD for the Cardinals. This one ends with a score of 24-3. Pretty sad.
2:00 left in game
Cardinals at the San Fran 39 as the game begins to wind down. Can they get a garbage time TD? Maybe?
3:35 left in game -- mercifully
Another punt leads to another Cardinals drive. They start at their own 35. Most of the fans won't be here to see whatever happens, as they're heading for the exits.
7:54 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals face a 3rd and 23 from their own 20 after some incompletions and sacks. If they don't convert here they may not win tonight. Heh.
10:51 left in fourth quarter
Cardinals force a punt but a penalty putst he ball on their own five.
12:55 left in fourth quarter
Skelton sacked twice and the Cardinals punt. D'Anthony Batiste is, umm, struggling. Things are getting a little chippy on the field, which is great and all seeing how the score is 24-3.
14:13 left in fourth quarter
Early Doucet gets deaded by Gholston on a ridiculous hit. Like, ouch. Second down.
14:18 left in fourth quarter
Niners deep in their territory after a Dockett sack, forced to punt after a short third down run. Cardinals take over at their own 37, and if there is any hope -- fleeting as it may be -- they need to get seven on this drive.
:57 left in third quarter
Don't call it a comeback! No really, don't. The Cardinals get a field goal after a 14-play, 70 yard drive. It is now 24-3, and all the team needs is seven more drives like that one to knot this thing up.
7:27 left in third quarter
Cards begin at their own 20. Vince Marotta says "now it's going to get ugly." Yeah, Vince, now.
7:27 left in third quarter
Niners move ball, Niners score, Niners making this a blowout. Randy Moss takes a third down pass 47 yards for a score, making many a Cardinal miss en route to the end zone.
This is fun.
10:59 left in third quarter
Cardinals offense threatens to look competent, but falls into old habits and stalls at midfield. Punt sails into the end zone and the Niners will take over at their 20.
15:00 left in third quarter
Cardinals have the ball starting at their own 20. Can they get something going? History would say no. I say no. Let's see what the team says.
Skelton's hail mary is picked off to end the first half. It was short of the end zone anyway.
What a miserable half of football. Good thing much of the northeastern US is unable to watch it.
1:11 left in second quarter
Cardinals driving here, hoping to get into range for maybe a last second field goal.
1:41 left in second quarter
Crabree scores again on third down and it's now 17-0. When does ESPN decide to stop airing Cardinals games?
Patrick Peterson is having a rough night, as are the Cardinals. Fans leaving their seats, presumably to get refreshments at halftime. We'll see if they all come back.
2:00 minute warning
49ers driving once again, as they have the ball at the Arizona 10. No bueno, Cards fans. No bueno at all.
4:00 left in second quarter
Another drive goes nowhere after a high (but catchable) pass to Fitz falls incomplete. Niners have the ball with a chance to add to this seemingly insurmountable lead.
5:58 left in second quarter
Crabtree gets enough yardage to get into field goal range, where Akers is good from 43 yards out. It's only a 10-0 game but it feels like more.
Perhaps that's what happens when the offense is terrible.
6:52 left in second quarter
A Daryl Washington sack knocks the Niners back 8 yards and now the visitors face a 3rd and 23.
9:34 left in second quarter
Cardinals go a first down but nothing more. Another punt, only this time Ginn gets a nice return of 35 yards. Niners have the ball at the Arizona 45 with a chance to make this a two-score game.
13:25 left in second quarter
Defense does the job and forces another punt. Peterson makes the fair catch at the 10, where Skelton will go to work. Hasn't looked too good so far.
End of first quarter
The Niners will take a 7-0 lead into the second quarter. I don't have the stats in front of me, but I fear San Francisco has more points than the Cardinals do net yards gained. That ain't gonna get it done, folks.
:42 left in first quarter
Cardinals go three-and-out, with Fitz getting up slow after a rare third-down drop. Punt is a good one and the Niners will start at their 44.
1:53 left in first quarter
Cardinals will start this drive from their own 20. Can Skelton get the offense going? He's going to have to.
1:53 left in first quarter
San Francisco puts a real good drive together, featuring far more running than passing. Gore and Co. carved the Cardinals up, and on 3rd and goal Smith hits Crabtree from three-yards out for the score. Good thing Crabtree is on my fantasy team's bench tonight.
Anyway, Niners take an early lead after what was a very, very good drive.
7:57 left in first quarter
The Cardinals waste their first successful screen pass of the decade, which picked up 24 yards, but going nowhere on their next three plays. Zastudil's punt is a good one with little return, but a holding penalty on the Cardinals will help the 49ers out.
10:19 left in first quarter
Defense stiffens up, as Peterson makes a great play on a bubble screen and then Gore is wrapped up for minimal gain.
The punt is a good one, but a 15-yard penalty on the Niners gives the Cardinals decent field position. Drive will start at the Arizona 27, with John Skelton under center.
He's a perfect 6-0 as a starter at home, can the streak continue?
12:11 left in first quarter
The 49ers burn a timeout facing a 2nd and 14 from their own 46. Frank Gore has found some running room, which is very much a bad thing for the Cardinals. Can't let him go off, makes the Niners that much more dangerous.
14:55 left in first quarter
Ginn's return doesn't go too far and the Niners will start at their own 25. Cardinals D needs to make a statement early in this one.
5:00 until kickoff
The Cardinals won the toss and elected to defer. They'll kick to the 49ers to start the game. Defense first here in Glendale.
On another note, the roof is open for what should be a very nice night out.
And on another, less fun note, I have a bad feeling about this one. Hope I'm wrong.
Like after every game this season, I fully planned on writing about the Arizona Cardinals' 21-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings Sunday.
I didn't (sorry, boss).
That it was Arizona's third-consecutive loss should be cause for concern.
That the Cardinals lost a game win which the opposing quarterback threw for just 58 yards should be cause for one pulling their hair out.
That the Cardinals seem more likely to become the fourth team since 2008 to start a season 4-0 and miss the postseason should be reason to be upset.
But I'm not. Bummed, sure. But not upset.
Guess that comes with understanding and accepting who these Cardinals are.
A team with an outstanding defense, a solid special teams and an offense that even the 1994 Cardinals feel bad for.
For those who don't remember, that was Buddy Ryan's first year in the Valley, and his team scored fewer than 15 points per game. The Cards gave up fewer than 17 points per game that season, and rode that defense to an 8-8 record.
Actually, now that I think of it, the 2012 and 1994 Cardinals have a lot in common. Now all we need is Ken Whisenhunt to leave the final game of the 2013 season before it's actually over and we'll actually have something.
Anyway, the point is it's taken seven games, but now we have a real good idea of who and what the Arizona Cardinals are and what they are not.
They are equal parts exciting and depressing, enjoyable and frustrating. They are severely flawed on offense and incredibly capable on defense. They are capable of beating anyone on any given Sunday.
Yet, as of this moment it's tough to picture this team winning another game.
Until the offense starts getting out of its own way (or begins to get in a defensive lineman's) this team will struggle to score points. As great as the defense is, it's obvious the deficiency on the other side of the football is just too much to overcome.
We should have seen it coming.
The team's formula success was something like great defense + mostly-competent offense + outstanding special teams = wins, and that was fun while it worked. But it was not sustainable. Certain areas needed to improve, and that they haven't is now costing this team on a weekly basis.
Falling from 4-0 to 4-3 would be bad in itself, but a quick glance at the schedule reveals a likelihood of the Cardinals reaching 4-6. Think about it: this team could be in the midst of its second six-game losing streak in two seasons. That's not acceptable.
A friend asked me the other day "let's say the Cards finish 6-10, do you fire Whisenhunt and promote Horton?"
The thought behind the idea is that Ray Horton, who has turned Arizona's defense into one of the best in the league, is too valuable to watch leave for another team. And Whisenhunt, for all the good things he's done in the Valley, would have just finished with his third-straight sub-par campaign. Do you give the head coach more time to fix things, even if it costs you one of the game's rising stars?
I didn't have an answer for my friend, and I won't for a little while.
If anything his question is one for later down the road, if it even must be asked at all. While it may be getting easier to project this team going forward, the fact of the matter is there is still more than half a season left to be played.
A lot can change. Or nothing will change.
Not long ago, my colleague Dave Burns wrote if we want to love the Cardinals we'll have to learn to live with their flaws.
Problem is not only will we have to learn to live with their flaws, but accept the fact that they will ultimately be too much for this team to overcome.
Tempe, Ariz. -- Arizona State head coach Todd Graham began his postgame press conference with an opening statement that lasted 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
Of all the rambling (and don't worry, this was not Billy Madison-type stuff), one thing the first-year Sun Devil boss said really stood out:
"We were dominated by a team that was a lot better than us," Graham said.
He's absolutely right.
While just one game separated the teams in the standings going into Thursday night's contest, most rational observers (read: not Sun Devil homers) knew there was a greater gap between them on the field.
After all, there's a reason Oregon is ranked 2nd in the AP Poll and 3rd in the BCS standings while Arizona State couldn't crack the top 25 in either. They had each played weak schedules up to this point, but history gave the Ducks the benefit of the doubt.
And now, ASU fans, you should give your coach and his staff the same courtesy.
This loss, as disappointing as it may be, should not really come as a shock. A reality check, maybe, but at the end of the day this was not a game anyone penciled in as a "W" when looking at the schedule before the season began.
And hey, for the first 1:12 the Sun Devils looked every bit Oregon's equal. Then Oregon started to play like, well, Oregon.
The Ducks are on a level the Sun Devils can only hope to reach. They turned a 7-0 deficit into a comfortable lead before many people could even take their seats, and when the teams went to the locker room the score was 43-7 and the game was all but over.
That Arizona State outscored the Ducks 14-0 in the second half means absolutely nothing. If Oregon needed to score, they would have scored. If Oregon needed a stop, they'd get a stop.
It's what they do. To everyone.
So when you look at this game it is important to realize the Sun Devils are not this bad. Taylor Kelly, who entered the game as one of the nation's best quarterbacks, is not a guy who will throw for 93 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions every game. And the defense, which was highly-ranked before the game, will not allow 454 yards of total offense against the likes of UCLA and Washington State.
Unless defensive tackle Will Sutton is out for a while, in which case all bets are off.
The point is, Arizona State is not as bad as they appeared Thursday night at Sun Devil Stadium. They're also not as good as the 5-1 start to the season they may have made some believe.
The Sun Devils are something in between -- likely a seven, eight-win team -- and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that at this point in the Todd Graham era.
What can separate Graham from his predecessor is how his squad responds to this demoralizing loss. Last season, after going to Eugene and losing to the Ducks, the Devils responded by beating a lousy Colorado team before losing their final five games.
Unfortunately for Arizona State, the price of a cushy first half schedule is a daunting second half slate.
The next three games are all against teams that can beat the Sun Devils, and two of them are on the road. Beat an interesting UCLA team next week and the world is right again. Lose to them -- and then to Oregon State and USC -- and memories of last year's collapse will surely resurface.
That will not happen if the change Graham has been credited with bringing to the Sun Devils is in fact here to stay. The Sun Devils stayed disciplined even while Thursday's game got away from them, which is absolutely a good sign. They fought until the end, but not after the whistle.
The Sun Devils may not be a better team than the Oregon Ducks, but now is their chance to prove they are improving.